Monday 1 October 2018

DfE Adopter Reference Group

Today I was at the DfE today sharing the views and experiences of adopters at the Adopters Reference Group that feeds into the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board. I'll be honest I raised a few points at the meeting and the views here are mine, they may be shared by others but that's for them to declare.

Firstly. I was wanting to call this post '365 days to save the Adoption Support Fund', better sense prevailed.

Behind that kind of sensationalism is a serious question. In the autumn of next year the Treasury will do the sums and make a decision/recommendation in relation to it's value and sustainability in the financial context. They will then decide if it's going to continue beyond 2020.

Firstly, do we want the ASF to continue?

It's not a trick question,  the online narrative is often focused on the barriers or challenges that families face in relation to accessing the fund.  If you read only that then you may think that the ASF is a disaster. 90% of the issues I hear about are process problems and usually the responsibility of the Local Authorities, though it suits them to deflect that onto the ASF managers. Of course it's not perfect, what is, we need to be free to highlight areas for improvement. It's complicated

So, do we want the fund continue? The case has to be made that it presents value for money, that it's not paying for what is expected to be provided by the LAs as part of their core PAS service. The ASF has become part of our adoption landscape and has brought a lot of good to many, my view is that it's made us look up and seek out support, it's got social workers listening to our needs and seeking to support them, it's helped many. However, that 'many' are perhaps not the vocal ones, what can we do to present our case for continuation and justify its continuation, again if that's what we want. I realise writing this that for some they've been unable to access the Fund and that's not acceptable but their reality.
Lots to unpick there and I'm sure some will care less but I've a hunch that it is more welcome than not. Anyway, I'm just putting that out there.

We chatted about a few other issues including education and health and the challenges that parents and children face. If I'm being brutally honest, it felt a little like old ground, we see incremental improvements but culture and children's workforce knowledge are like the proverbial supertanker, they take a long time to re direct.

We briefly chatted about PAS workforce development, to me this is a tangible area that we can influence and though it's contentious I believe as users of the service we have a bona fide stake in the skill level of social care professionals (as we do any professional who wields power over us, ie I demand my doctor knows what they're doing and have continued there learning). The Governments documents on adoption reform mention it in passing but are  mainly focused on matching and quick approval. Anecdotally, it hasn't gone un noticed that the emerging RAA agendas are focused on systems, process and recruitment. Where is the support? Really, are they so focused on recruitment at the expense of support that that they'll throw more adoptive families into this challenge unequipped? Overstatement? Hmmmmmmm............

We need our social workers to be experts in support not generalists in social care, to understand therapeutic parenting, therapy pros and cons, trauma, loss, brains and living with traumatised children. More to the point, the reforms to policy and practice that we want to see will be implemented by those staff so we need to invest in them rather than systems that will not function without competent staff. Oh, I could go on. Social work seems to be in a flux about this but there are moves to add a little pressure to that pot.

Adoption policy appears to be in a time of transition and as we know transitions are hard with forces and pressures from many directions and this is overlaid by ongoing austerity with LAs struggling like never before. How will this pan out? I don't know, coming away I'm conscious that politicians come and go, focusses move this way and that, opinions and perspectives shift. This uncertainty will pass and maybe so will the ASF but an adopter I will remain.

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